In Nathaniel Hawthorneís The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynneís scarlet token liberates her more than it punishes her. First of all, Hesterís soul is freed by her admission of her crime; by enduring her earthly punishment, Hester is assured of a place in the heavens. Also, though her appearance is much hampered by the scarlet letter, her mind is freed by it, that an intellectual passion rises from her isolation and suffering. Finally, it defines her identity, for the letter makes Hester the woman that she is; it gives her roots, character, and a uniqueness to her being that sets her apart from the other Puritans. The scarlet letter is indeed a blessing to Hester Prynne, more than the curse she believes it to be.
The scarlet symbol of ignominy may have defiled Hesterís public image, yet it has been a benefit rather than a bane to her soul, for by admitting her crime to the crowd, her soul is freed from two hells: first, the fiery pit where she would otherwise go after death, and second, the own personal hell Hester will create for herself if she had chosen to hide her sin in her heart. Though it was ordered for Hester to wear the letter, it was still her own choice to make it in a vivid scarlet, "so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom." Hester chose red as the color of her brand of shame, to declare to the rest of the townspeople that she is prepared to acknowledge her sin, instead of denying it; she could have chosen to wear her "A" in a plain and nondistinct color, to escape the townspeopleís disdain. By displaying her guilt however, she is granted the opportunity to face her punishment bravely, thus through her public humiliation, she achieves freedom from the personal guilt of not suffering enough for her crimes. Furthermore, "the scarlet letter, forthwith seemed to scorch into Hester's breast, as if it had been red-hot." The scarlet Aís glowing embers, scorching they may be, also serve to heal, for the pain they inflict on Hester enables her to properly atone for her sin; by devoting this lifetime to repentance and expiation, she would receive relief in her next life. To the Puritans she is shamed, yet to the heavens she is honored as a repentant sinner who has returned to the loving arms of her Creator. Finally, Hesterís scarlet emblem is found on the outside, while the mark that her lover Dimmesdale is found in "his inmost heart." Though Hester and Dimmesdale are both branded with the scarlet "A", there is a world of difference between their badges of shame, for Hester's scarlet token is embroidered in dazzling gold thread and is displayed for everyone to see, showing that she hides nothing, while Dimmesdale's letter is branded on his chest: hidden from the public eye, yet with an effect that is more potent than that of the scarlet token on Hesterís breast. Indeed, the heat of glowing metal inflicts a far greater pain than that of needle and thread, the throb of fire against skin is more potent than a pin on a piece of cloth; though Hester may have to endure the taunts of the pitiless Puritans, at least, unlike Dimmesdale, she does not have to endure those of her own creation. Therefore, it can be concluded that Hester was better off wearing the letter, for by a enduring a lifetime of pain and agony, she escapes an eternity of unbearable torment.
The scarlet letter restrains Hesterís passionate nature in her appearance, transforming her into a colorless and faceless woman, yet her passion finds another outlet in the deep recesses of her own mind; Hester is liberated by the scarlet letter since she discovers an intellectual passion as a release from a dull and monotonous existence. Hesterís physical appearance may be one of "marble coldness", yet buried underneath those marble slabs her "newly emancipated" intellect burns with great fervor. The pure yet hard marble represents the Hester seen by the people; Solid and dependable, possessing a serene yet pallid beauty. The vibrance that once dominated her features now dominates her thoughts, her warm passion this time finding release in the richness of her brilliant mind. "Hester [imbibes] the spirit"